1 reason every NFL team can win the Super Bowl

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At this time of year, every fan of every team thinks their own team can win a Super Bowl. We know very few will really have a shot, but still we all dream of seeing our team hoist a trophy on Super Bowl Sunday and imagine going to buy our little "Team X Championship" T-shirt.

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1 reason every NFL team can win the Super Bowl

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are what you would categorize a long shot, but maybe not quite as farfetched as we think.

This is a team with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball but it will be the improvement on the offensive line which will give them a shot at the Super Bowl.

Defensively, this team was a lot better than they played in the 2014 NFL season. Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence, and Lavonte David help create what should be a good front seven while Alterraun Verner gives the defense a solid lock-down corner. The safeties are not great, but should be better this year than in 2014 and over all, defense is head coach Lovie Smith’s strength.

I don’t expect a Smith-coached team to be bad defensively two seasons in a row.

Even more devastating to the 2014 season was the offensive line though. As poorly as the quarterbacks played, their efforts weren’t aided by injuries and bad play along the line.

The Bucs drafted two players in the second round—tackle Donovan Smith and center/guard Ali Marpet—who could compete right away. The team has Smith slated for left tackle behind Demar Dotson, who was actually one of the few competent players on the line last year. So we don’t expect Smith to replace him there unless Dotson is kicked to the right side, where Kevin Pamphile struggled last season. Marpet is set as a backup at guard behind Patrick Omameh, who also played poorly last season.

With a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston, this team needs the offensive line to perform well. If they win a Super Bowl, it will be because the offensive line has improved its play astronomically.

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Tennessee Titans

If the Tennessee Titans are going to win a Super Bowl this year, it will be because Marcus Mariota carries them there.

This is not a team with an overabundance of talent. Yes, there are skilled players at many positions, but none of the dominant stars that other teams have. They finally have one in Mariota and the quarterback’s ability to adjust to the NFL game is key to any playoff run.

Mariota is a charismatic, hard working player who has a live arm and a ton of talent. He hasn’t much experience under center and that’s a concern, as are things that come with it like pocket-presence, patience and the ability to adjust to a play while climbing the ladder in the pocket.

Of course, the Titans offensive line has its own issues and that could be where Mariota becomes a huge asset for the team. If the line continually breaks down, Mariota’s mobility would allow him to extend the play long enough for a target like Kendall Hunter, Justin Hunter, rookie Dorial Green-Beckham or tight end Delanie Walker to get open.

Mariota’s legs could also help him gain first downs, score touchdowns in the red zone and burn the clock as well. Of course, this all assumes that head coach Ken Whisenhunt molds the offense around Mariota rather than force Mariota into an offense he doesn’t fit.

If Whisenhunt tries to make Mariota ‘just’ a pocket-passer, there is no way this team can make a deep run into the playoffs, much less win a championship. If he works with his rookie quarterback though, and keeps elements of the Oregon offense which made Mariota so successful, then his quarterback could take this team a long way.

(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team on the rise, but if they have a chance to get into the playoffs and perhaps win a Super Bowl, it’s because quarterback Blake Bortles takes a big leap forward in 2015.

The Jaguars nabbed their franchise quarterback (after moving on from the Blaine Gabbert Experiment/Meltdown) and between that draft pick and now, have also added what could be some key pieces for him to take that leap forward.

Last season they drafted Allen Robinson and Marquise Lee, both of whom have a lot of talent, if Lee has struggled to remain on the field. They will be important weapons for Bortles to utilize and keep the chains moving.

The team also added former Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, another potential big weapon. Of course, you cannot expect Thomas to be exactly the same player he was when Peyton Manning was throwing him the ball. However, Thomas is an athletic ‘move’ tight end who can stretch the field and create some extra yards after the catch.

So Bortles has the tools—now he needs to use them.

The second-year quarterback showed a lot of promise last year, but had some rookie issues he needs to overcome. The biggest challenge for Bortles is turnovers. He has a strong arm and no fear of challenging defensive backs, but needs to be wiser about when he should and shouldn’t do it. His 17 interceptions are too much, especially compared to just 11 touchdowns and he needs to take better care of the ball.

Bortles looks like the real deal—which has to be a relief for Jaguars fans—and if the Jaguars have a shot at a championship, it’s because he takes himself—and the team—to the next level.

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders have a tough road ahead of them to make—much less win—a Super Bowl. If they’re going to have a shot at the title, they need their defense to play far better than it did last year.

The Oakland Raiders defense was ranked No. 21 overall according to NFL.com and it allowed the most points over the course of the season. They were better against the pass (No. 16 in the NFL) than the run (No. 21 in the NFL), but allowed the sixth most touchdowns through the air while ending up tied for third for touchdowns on the ground with a total of 17.

In a division which features passing offenses led by Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and, to a lesser extent, Alex Smith, you can’t have a pass defense give up that many touchdowns. For that matter, all three of their AFC West opponents also have solid backfields. And all this is before we even talk about the rest of the AFC with Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and more.

The Raiders have some talent on the defensive side of the ball, especially second-year SAM linebacker Khalil Mack. There is also veteran defensive end Justin Tuck and second-round 2015 rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr who will help with the pass rush.

Pressure from the front seven will help cover up some of the shakiness in the secondary, as D.J. Hayden and Travis Carrie (currently the starting cornerbacks per Ourlads.com) both struggled last season.

If the Raiders have a shot at the championship—and honestly, it’s a long shot—the defense will have to carry them as the young offense will need help and the very tough opposing offenses will be challenging roadblocks to say the least.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Washington Redskins

If the Washington Redskins are going to win the Super Bowl, Robert Griffin III has to finally get back to the level of play he showed in his rookie season. During that year he completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,211 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Since then he has completed 62 percent of 670 pass attempts, for 4,897 yards, 20 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He’s also only played 22 out of 32 possible games.

Washington has some great receiving threats (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon), a fantastic backfield (Alfred Morris, Silas Redd and rookie Matt Jones) and a great pair of tight end (Jordan Reed and Niles Paul). The weapons are there for Griffin to work with.

Now it’s up to him. There are a few things Griffin needs to do, the first of which is stay on the field. That involves a lot of little things on his part, including being smarter about taking big hits. While for the most part no one hit has laid him out permanently, the cumulative effect of multiple hits across the season definitely takes its toll on him. He needs to be smarter when he runs—more like Russell Wilson or Cam Newton (although Newton has a bigger frame).

He’s also got to buy into Jay Gruden’s offense. Thus far it seems as if he and his head coach are not on the same page—there is resistance on both sides of the pair, but it’s quite clear that Gruden is not moving—so if Griffin is going to get better and lead his team to the championship, he needs to bend at least a little.

At the end of the day, Washington is in a competitive division and they need their franchise quarterback to be the guy they traded a ton of picks to move up and draft three years ago.

(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

New York Jets

The New York Jets have always had a strong defense. Even with last season’s dip in production and complete lack of production from the corners for a portion of the season, this team has always been tough to get yards and points against.

It’s the offense which has been a tragedy, really. For years under Rex Ryan, the offense continually released players which hampered the already slow (almost negligible) progress at the quarterback position. While Mark Sanchez was never all that great, how can you know you got the most out of him when you released receivers almost every year and his one constant was Santonio Holmes, whose best contribution was being a pain in the ‘we’d better not say’.

So given the Jets have actually improved upon the No. 6 defense from 2014, it’s all on that offense. If the offense gels, this is a team which could have a shot at the Super Bowl.

That could be a tall order as there are a lot of new and moving parts.

Eric Decker, Jace Amaro and Jeremy Kerley are all weapons remaining from last season, while Brandon Marshall and rooke Devin Smith are the new receivers. All are very potent weapons in the passing game.

The Jets could feature quite a solid run game as well, as Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley join Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell in the backfield. How the team portions out the carries is hard to say, but there are several combinations which would give the Jets a lot of yards on the ground.

Of course, the big question mark is, do they have a quarterback who can take advantage of the weapons the offense has? Can Geno Smith step up? Or can Ryan Fitzpatrick do enough to keep the Jets competitive?

Can this offense produce? If it can, between it and the defense, this team could make a run.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears completely fell apart in 2014.  They had been dealing with defensive issues since Marc Trestman had taken over as head coach, but that side of the ball was aging anyway. The offense imploded though, and the whole thing went to pieces. Out with the old, in with John Fox.

If the Bears can manage to win the Super Bowl, it will be because Foxy managed to fix the problems on both sides with what is already there. The team brought in ten free agents—most of them on the defensive side of the ball—and jettisoned Brandon Marshall to kick things off. They allegedly tried to move quarterback Jay Cutler as well, but that didn’t work out.

On the defensive side of the ball, where they will run a 3-4, they added guys like Pernell McPhee, Antrel Rolle and Mason Foster, veterans who will step right into starting roles. Add them to Jared Allen, Ego Ferguson, Tom Jennings and Kyle Fuller and this defense looks like it could bounce back in short order if everyone is healthy.

Offensively Fox has to figure out two things: if Alshon Jeffery can be a No. 1 wide receiver and if Jay Cutler can give the team more than he has. The first question will be helped with the selection of rookie Kevin White who will start across from Jeffery. He’s going to have to prove he is a danger before the coverage evens out and away from Jeffery, but White is a tremendous player and should be fine after some adjustment.

The second question is harder to answer. While Fox wasn’t in Denver when Cutler was the Broncos quarterback, he’s heard enough around the building to be leery. Cutler is high maintenance with a less-than-high return and he costs a lot.

Fix is going to have to find a way to make him produce consistently.

If Fox can do that and the defense bounces back, the Bears could see the Lombardi Trophy and not just on TV.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have played so much worse than they should have played the last two years. The result was the ouster of Mike Smith and the hiring of Dan Quinn.

The offense isn’t really the issue, even though the line was a wreck last season. It’s the defense that has to get on track.

After a hybrid 3-4 last season, they are switching back to the 4-3 base, which should help a little though it also makes last year’s acquisitions of guys like Paul Soloai seem questionable. Still, there is talent there if they can get them in the right position.

Quinn and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan have to find a way to improve the pass rush—22 sacks tied this defense with Oakland for second fewest in the NFL last season. On the plus side, they only allowed 20 touchdowns through the air—fifth least in the NFL.

That would be because the run defense allowed the most touchdowns last season at 21. While they were just a little below average against the run overall, those 21 touchdowns hurt them badly.

Ra’Shede Hageman is finally getting his feet under him and should help Soliai plus the middle up and help the run defense, which desperately needed it.

If Adrian Clayborn is healthy, he should be able to bring some serious pressure from the right side and Tyson Jackson needs to improve on the left.

Rookie Vic Beasley could find a role as a rotation player at least, though if Clayborn gets hurt, Beasley should get his spot.

So if this team is to find a way to win a Super Bowl, they need the defense to rebound this year—especially against the run.

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

New York Giants

Last year was a mess for the New York Giants across the board. The offensive line and the defense as a whole were both plagued by injuries. They installed a new offensive system, which took quite a while to master and they suffered a massive injury to wide receiver Victor Cruz.

There were good points though as well, including the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. as a playmaker at receiver with Cruz out. And once players wrapped their heads around the offense, it actually looked good.

If the Giants are going to win the Super Bowl, it has to look perfect. We’ve seen what this version of an offense looks like back in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s old stomping grounds of Green Bay. While you can argue Eli Manning isn’t quite in Aaron Rodgers category of quarterback, he’s certainly not bad.

His weapons are also could be on par with what Rodgers has in Green Bay. If Cruz comes back to 100 of pre-injury form and Beckham Jr. proves that 2014 was no fluke, his receivers are excellent. The run game, with Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen can also be potent.

The Giants offense under McAdoo is a fast-paced timing offense and keeps a defense on its heels, wearing them down by keeping them from having the ability to substitute players. It features an up-tempo style and one which should serve the team well both in the NFC East and the conference as a whole.

The defense started to right itself last season and should continue to improve this year, but it’s the offense which needs to really click for the team to reach a championship again.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

St. Louis Rams

Over the past decade, the St. Louis Rams have struggled to put the pieces together in order to form a solid team which can contend each year. The offense has struggled with the frequently injured Sam Bradford under center, the receivers have underperformed and the defense has been less than the sum of its parts as well.

If the Rams are going to make a Super Bowl—much less win one—more than anything else they need Nick Foles to find a way to lead this offense.

The defense was actually halfway decent last year, ranked No. 17 overall, and while you’d like to see more out of it, it’s enough to keep them in games when there is a competent quarterback. And of all the issues this team has had over the last few years, inconsistent quarterback play has held it back the most.

So Foles has to find a way to get Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick and tight end Jared Cook to reach their full potential (in Cook’s case, find it again). While he’s not as good as he looked during his 27 touchdown—two interception 2013 season, he’s better than the 13-10 season he had last year, a function of an injury shortened season during which he played behind an injury-rattled Philadelphia Eagles offensive line. By the time the line was back to full health, Foles was done.

Of course, the offensive line for the Rams isn’t anywhere near as good as Philadelphia’s was, though it’s going to look much different this year. If players like first round tackle Greg Robinson and guard Rodger Saffold can keep Foles upright though, he could have a solid year.

The Rams need someone who can lead and not end up on the trainer’s table by the end of the season. Is Foles that guy? If the Rams have any hope of a Super Bowl, he has to be.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are for real and the NFC North—the whole league—had better not overlook them. This is a team which was much better in 2014 than expected. They found their franchise quarterback. They added more and more pieces to the defense. The found production from many different and unexpected sources.

And they did it without a key piece of their offense as Adrian Peterson was suspended. And if this is a team that goes to the Super Bowl and wins a championship, it’ll be that last piece—Peterson—which takes them there.

Now it wasn’t all that long ago that we though Peterson would be wearing a different jersey. He has supposedly wanted a trade or at least out of the franchise for a while, but the Vikings didn’t budge. So he’s playing for Minnesota this year.

The big question is, how much will his beef with the team hinder his play? Peterson is an immense competitor, the team wants him back, his teammates want him back and he has to know that, as good as he has played, he is nearing the end of his career.

One would think that he could put aside his issues and play to the level he is capable of. He has a lot of incentive. He wants a Super Bowl. He wants a big payday to end his career and while he is under contract, he has to know the Vikings are going to have to renegotiate his contract or cut him at some point, allowing him to go anywhere that will pay him. A Super Bowl on his resume would help him get the money he wants.

He’s also in the best offense he has seen since Brett Favre donned the uniform a few years back. Teddy Bridgewater is legit, the receivers are strong and the defense will keep games close, if not win a few outright. This is his best chance at a ring.

If he can play at his best, he’ll be the catalyst that can send this team to a Super Bowl victory.

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns tried to add a lot more pieces to this team after a disastrous 2014, during which they looked like they could make the playoffs, only to completely collapse during the final leg of the season.

They added Danny Shelton in the draft to shore the run defense up. They added a few free agent receivers. They will have a healthy offensive line, and made sure to get some extra parts for backup in case they are bit by the injury bug again.

What they haven’t settled—and what they need to if they are to win a Super Bowl this year—is who the quarterback is. There’s no clarity right now, though there are a ton of choices.

Of course, there is Josh McCown, still living off that one great set of games for the Chicago Bears two years ago. He flamed out in Tampa Bay, in part due to injury, and is hoping that behind a much better offensive line, with a functioning defense to keep the games close, he can recapture that form he had his last year in Chicago.

Or maybe it will be Johnny Manziel, fresh out of rehab. Manziel has a lot of talent, but not a lot of focus and spent too much time off the field doing things that left it hard for him to succeed on it. He has a live arm and is exciting out of the pocket, but can he be consistent enough to take the Browns to the promised land?

There are also Thad Lewis and Connor Shaw, neither of which seem like franchise starters (Lewis is now on his sixth team since 2010) but could hold untapped potential.

One of these four players could be the answer and if the Browns can figure out which one, there is enough talent on the team to make a run.

 (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

New Orleans Saints

It wasn’t that long ago that the New Orleans Saints were perennial Super Bowl contenders, or at least an automatic consideration prior to the start of each season. The last few years have seen this franchise in with some inconsistent records though, and this offseason it found itself divesting itself of some talented players, like tight end Jimmy Graham.

While the offense has struggled to be the high-scoring powerhouse it once was, it’s the defense which has really let this team down and the defense that holds the key to its potential to another Super Bowl appearance and a win.

Rob Ryan has been the defensive coordinator since 2013 and while the defense had a great season in his first year, it’s been a mess since. Some of that has been talent, but there is a real question as to whether Ryan is able to use the talent there to their fullest as well.

Well, the Saints went out and got him plenty of talent this offseason. Jairus Byrd (last season’s big get in free agency) should be healthy this year, and the team added Brandon Browner, Anthony Spencer and Kyle Wilson in free agency as well as inside linebacker Stephone Anthony, outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha, cornerback P.J. Williams, outside linebacker Davis Tull, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison and cornerback Damian Swan in the draft.

There is plenty of talent on defense now. Ryan has to utilize it.

If he can do that, this is a team which shouldn’t see a ton of competition in its division, and should be able to hang with anyone in the conference. A good defense, one in which Rob Ryan has shown he knows how to get the most out of his players, is one which can carry this team to a championship.

(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)

Miami Dolphins

One of the more underrated defenses in the NFL, with a ton of talent on offense, the Miami Dolphins’ championship hopes rest on the shoulders of their four year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Because they will ultimately only go as far as he will take them.

The team has given him plenty of weapons at wide receiver, adding Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills to a young group of dynamic receivers like Rishard Matthews, Jarvis Landry and now rookie DeVante Parker. They have also put together a backfield featuring Lamar Miller, Damian Williams and rookie Jay Ajayi. And he now also has former Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron as well.

It’s up to Tannehill, who has improved at least a little every year, but now finds himself in a contract year and having to prove he’s worth franchise quarterback money.

To do that, he needs to keep that completion percentage up near the 66 percent it was last season, the interceptions to the career low of 12 and continue to add touchdowns to his totals, which have increased every season.

He faces some very tough competition in his conference and division. The New York Jets feature one of the best secondaries in the league, the Patriots continue to find ways to attack the quarterback from every direction and new Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan has collected a tremendous group of defenders which builds on what was already a good group.

More than anything else, this highlights that Tannehill has to avoid the mistakes he has made too often before. It’s not just avoiding interceptions—it’s about making sure the throw you make is the best one at the time. Sometimes Tannehill makes a throw that, while not resulting in a turnover, doesn’t make the play the Dolphins need.

Tannehill has to learn the difference. If he does, he could lead his team to a Super Bowl.

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

San Francisco 49ers

Well, they said goodbye to Jim Harbaugh and rolled the dice that the success they have had the last few years was more about the team and less about the coach. That Jim Tomsula can step in and replicate the results of a guy who took his team to the conference championships and the playoffs all but one year he was head coach.

Tomsula takes over a team which isn’t quite as strong as it was even as recently as last year. Ten players left in free agency, and that doesn’t even include the retirement of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland (who was supposed to replace Willis at some point). The defense is in need of a reboot and badly. Did Tomsula get enough talent in free agency and the draft?

The offense also looks a bit different with Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree gone. Can Tomsula help Colin Kaepernick take his game to the next level, a process Harbaugh was still in the midst of? Does he try to convert Kaepernick into more of a pocket passer, or will he embrace the mobility Kaepernick has and adapt his offense to it?

This is a team with a lot riding on the results. The division is one of the most competitive in the NFL, the team has seen many veterans leave and the new coach doesn’t have much of a track record. There is still plenty of talent in San Francisco though, and Tomsula has the tools at his disposal.

Whether he can use them well is the question, and one that a lot of Niner fans will be judging.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans have put together a tremendous defense over the last few years, adding some more during the 2015 NFL Draft, shoring up cornerback and linebacker, as well as adding some receivers for the offense as well.

Without a doubt, this is a team with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. The biggest question is at quarterback.

If this team is to challenge for the Super Bowl title, they need to answer it. As far as I am concerned, that falls on Ryan Mallett. Brian Hoyer showed in Cleveland that he can ‘hold the fort,’ playing the position well enough to get by for a while. He’s limited though and better served as a backup.

Tom Savage, meanwhile, is too inexperienced and raw to take them all that far. He has the general skills, but needs more refinement.

Mallett is an unknown factor overall, but we know a few things. We know he has a strong arm, one which can throw a sharp pass, and that he is big and durable. Mallett has the skill to take advantage of DeAndre Hopkins and rookie Jaelen Strong, to challenge cornerbacks and blow the ball by them when coverage is tight.

We aren’t totally sure what his ceiling is since he came late to the Texans, lingered behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and then got hurt. But of the three he has the most upside coupled with the lowest floor.

If Ryan Mallett proves to be the franchise quarterback Houston hoped he would be, this is a team which has the overall weapons to challenge for the division, the conference and beyond that, a Super Bowl.

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers have been a little up and down the last few years, but when they are at their most effective and dangerous, it’s because quarterback Philip Rivers is on point.

Since Mike McCoy arrived in San Diego to take over head coaching duties, Rivers has seen his interceptions go down and his passing touchdowns go up. While he doesn’t get as many yards per year as he did at times under Norv Turner, he’s smarter with the ball and does a better job of getting it to his receivers.

Rivers has an array of weapons around him, an improving offensive line and now a very good run game with rookie Melvin Gordon joining Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead in the backfield. With all the tools at his disposal, Rivers should be very effective.

The Chargers need him to be, as they are in a conference with some teams that will put points on the board no matter how good your defense is. In the AFC West alone, you have Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, as well as a more moderate threat in Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. And don’t discount second-year quarterback Derek Carr in Oakland.

If the Chargers and Rivers get out of the division, they face the likes of Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger.

Having an effective quarterback is critical to a Super Bowl run out of the AFC. So the Chargers need Rivers to have one of the best years of his career. If he does, they have a real shot at playing in Santa Clara in February.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith has done tremendous things for Kansas City since he arrived, and with precious few weapons to throw to. Oh, he has Jamaal Charles running the ball, which makes life a ton easier. But when your best receiver is an underwhelming Dwayne Bowe, you’re in trouble.

Enter Jeremy Maclin, fresh from the Philadelphia Eagles. If the Chiefs are going to have a shot at the Super Bowl, Maclin has to be the real deal for them—a receiver they can count on to not only catch the ball, but cause some damage after that.

Maclin had a great 2014, catching 86 balls for 1,329 yards and ten touchdowns. He did have a very effective Jordan Matthews next to him, but as solid as the rookie played, he didn’t draw all the attention from Maclin. Maclin might get similar room if DeAnthony Thomas can play receiver now that he has been converted from running back full time.

In his favor is the fact that Jamaal Charles takes so much attention from the defense that Maclin might get single coverage as the safety cheats in to try and get the jump on Charles. Another thing that can help Maclin would be for the team to get Travis Kelce more involved at tight end, using him to stretch the field on occasion. Both of those things will attract defensive attention and free Maclin up.

The Chiefs have gone for too long without a legitimate, producing wideout. Maclin was brought in with the hope he could change that and if he can, he will be a huge factor in a run to—and during—the NFL playoffs, perhaps to a title.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Buffalo Bills

The biggest problem for Rex Ryan while with the New York Jets—one he never solved—was how to get anything out of the quarterback position. Can he change that in upper New York with the Buffalo Bills? That’s the key to the Bills having any chance at a Super Bowl.

It’s not a question which is easily answered. Looking at the players he has under his command, there aren’t any quarterbacks who have been able to carry a team for long.

Matt Cassel was serviceable in Minnesota after an unimpressive stint in Kansas City with the Chiefs. He doesn’t have a great deep ball and seems to fold under pressure, but with a decent offensive line in front of him, he might do OK for a while.

EJ Manuel has struggled since the Bills reached for him in 2013. It’s too early to label him a bust, but he was absolutely overdrafted at No. 16 and the rawness that made that the case has been all too clear in his first two years, though injury has certainly played a part. He has great mobility, but his accuracy and pocket sense, as well as his ability to read the defense, need work.

Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Tuel are backups and no more.

So who does Ryan tap? More than likely it starts with Cassel, though a good showing could give Manuel a chance. Ryan is going to run the ball early and often—that’s why he got LeSean McCoy and drafted Karlos Williams—to take the pressure off his quarterback but it still matters who that guy is. Because you have to throw the ball at some point.

Ryan needs to figure out which is his guy. If he chooses the correct player, this is a team with plenty of talent—both on offense and defense—to make a run at the Lombardi.

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has made some bold moves this offseason, and his boldest didn’t even pan out. However, while he missed out on Marcus Mariota, Kelly still left his mark on the team this offseason.

Gone are LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Trent Cole, Nate Allen and Casey Williams (among others). Newly signed or drafted are guys like DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, Walter Thurmond, Nelson Agholor and Eric Rowe. He also traded for oft-injured Sam Bradford, while getting rid of Nick Foles.

Kelly has bet big on himself this offseason. While nobody is talking ‘Dream Team’ like in 2011, this is a very good collection of players. Kelly has invested heavily in players he believes fit—and will buy into—his system. Guys like McCoy didn’t buy in, while guys like Folk didn’t quite fit in.

Meanwhile, the players he brought in are supposed to.

There is a lot of risk here. Bradford has been off the field due to injury almost as much as he has been on it. DeMarco Murray’s tremendous 2014 was also the first year he has carried the load and stayed healthy. Mathews is almost never not on the trainer’s table. And aside from Jordan Matthews, the receiving corps is a bunch of role players and a rookie.

If Kelly is right and his moves pan out, this team is a contender. But if he’s wrong—if he moved the wrong players, bet on guys who cannot stay healthy or any of his other personnel decisions blow up in his face—Eagles fans will not be happy.

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals

The losses in the playoffs aren’t all on Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, but he certainly made some mistakes which didn’t help.

We can be relatively sure the Bengals will be in the playoffs again this season, even if the AFC North continues to get more competitive. The question then becomes can Dalton avoid the mistakes he has made in the playoffs and get his team into the Super Bowl?

Dalton seems to have a knack for picking playoff time to be when he has his poorer games.  Sometimes those around him falter as well, but quite often Dalton struggles to make the big plays when they count.

He has to many weapons for it to continue to happen, players like A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. With weapons like those, Dalton should be able to win post-season games but he’s yet to do so. And over the course of four games he has thrown just one touchdown compared to six interceptions, and totaled over 300 yards just once. Last season, in the Bengals’ game against the Indianapolis Colts, he managed only 155 yards.

Again, these losses aren’t all on Dalton—he was without Green against the Colts for example—but great quarterbacks overcome the problems around him. It’s what guys like Tom Brady and Russell Wilson do. So far Dalton hasn’t found a way. If he does, the Bengals could contend for the Lombardi this year.

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a state of flux. They had been relying on a good defense while the offensive line was built and new receivers were trained. Now it seems the defense is about to get a reboot while the offense wins games.

The one thing which stood out to anyone watching the loss to the Baltimore Ravens in last season’s playoffs was how critical Le’Veon Bell was to the team.

What a different game that might have been with Bell, who had been on fire at the end of the season. But he got hurt during a Week 17 win over the Bengals and couldn’t play against Baltimore in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.

Of course, Bell is still rehabbing the knee injury which ended his season, and is going to be suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. That’s going to throw off the start of his season and hopefully the Steelers can avoid any loss of momentum without him, so they aren’t behind the eight-ball when he returns.

Bell is a workhorse who can break off a big play at any time, but is also able to get the hard yards you need in short yardage situations. The Steelers relied on him late last year and would have in the playoffs again.

This season, if Bell can stay healthy (and out of trouble) the team will ride him again, perhaps all the way to the Super Bowl.

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions came close last year, but ran into the buzzsaw that was the Dallas Cowboys and ended their season in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. This season they want to replicate their success—but have to do it without Ndamukong Suh.

They’ve got the offensive firepower to score points with quarterback Matthew Stafford throwing to Calving Johnson and Golden Tate, with a backfield of Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. The offensive line is good enough to protect Stafford and open gaps for the backfield. The offense isn’t the issue.

The issue could be the defense, though it—particularly the secondary—has made huge strides the last few seasons.

You don’t lose a player like Suh without a little adjustment though. The Lions are betting on the combination of Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker or Caraun Reid will help fill the void left when Suh took his 8.5 sacks to the Miami Dolphins.

Of course, the Lions got pressure from the edge as well, with Ziggy Ansah generating 7.5 sacks last season, but there’s nobody else close to those totals, and certainly nobody generating them from inside.

So how will the Lions replace Suh? Will someone step up inside? Or are we looking at some changes in how the Lions rush the quarterback?

Either one could be done, though the more likely is the philosophical shift. Some tight coverage by Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay at the corners and pressure from Ansah, as well as linebackers Deandre Levy and Josh Bynes or Kyle Van Noy makes more sense. Interior sacks aren’t easy to come by, and Suh was a special case.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make up for his production—it just means you adjust and get it from somewhere else. If the Lions can do that, they have an excellent chance of a playoff berth and maybe a Super Bowl win.

(Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals

Head coach Bruce Arians had the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs almost solely through defensive effort because the quarterback position was a dumpster fire once Carson Palmer went down. That the team was able to win the NFC West and make the playoffs with an 11-5 record.

Think of what could have been if Palmer hadn’t been hurt?

That’s what we’re doing now, because Palmer makes an offense that was No. 24 overall, No. 14 passing in 2014 much better.

His presence will also help a ground attack which was almost dead last in 2014, because teams can’t load the box up on him the way they did against Drew Stanton, Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas. Palmer makes Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd greater threats and that pulls the safeties away from the interior, as they need to help the corners lock down on the two excellent receiving threats.

The Cardinals have to keep Palmer healthy this year, and to do that they continued to improve the offensive line, signing guard Mike Iupati and drafting D.J. Humphries in the first round, likely to step in at right tackle sometime this year. Jason Veldheer should be fine at left tackle, but they are hoping for more from 2013 first rounder Johnathan Cooper at right guard.

All this to keep Palmer on his feet and off injured reserve. At 35 the former USC Trojan is closer to the end of his career than the beginning and as we saw from the players behind him, when he goes the championship window might clam shut.

If they can keep Palmer healthy though, the Cardinals could be winners this year.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Carolina Panthers

If the Carolina Panthers are going to go further in the playoffs this year, much less win a Super Bowl, it starts in the trenches on the offensive line.

This was an offensive line that was tied for No. 12 in sacks allowed with 42 last season and was ranked No. 22 overall by Pro Football Focus. As PFF points out, it could have been much worse given Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton retired. Carolina didn’t seem to adjust all that well—Byron Bell was abominable at left tackle—and while this didn’t result in quarterback Cam Newton being massacred behind the line, it made his job harder and took the knees out of the run game at time.

This offseason the Panthers signed Michael Oher to play left tackle and Jonathan Martin to back him up, drafted Daryl Williams as a potential right tackle or guard in the third round. It looks a lot different than it did last season, but is it improved?

If it’s going to play better, it starts with left tackle Oher, who has struggled after some decent early seasons when he first entered the NFL. The subject of The Blind Side(book or major motion picture, take your pick) has never really lived up to expectations and yet he’s at a very critical position in protecting Newton’s back.

Of course, in today’s NFL, the pressure comes from anywhere and everywhere, so Mike Remmers at right tackle and both guards have to step up their games.

If the offensive line can give Newton some time and if they can open lanes for the backfield, the Panthers have the talent to vie for—and perhaps win—their first Super Bowl.

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens

One of the biggest reasons why the Baltimore Raves were able to make the playoffs last season was because Justin Forsett played so well, they didn’t miss Ray Rice. Rice, of course, was suspended for domestic violence, appealed and won, but had caused such terrible press (helped by some willful ignorance on the part of the Ravens) that the team cut him loose.

The Ravens depend on some production from the backfield to make things go, help quarterback Joe Flacco buy some time by keeping the defense honest with production on the ground. When Rice left, fans and media wondered who would step up and were worried when Bernard Pierce fell flat on his face.

Enter Justin Forsett, a guy who had never really carried a full load (the most carries he had in a season previously was 118 in Seattle) and seemed like a pretty limited option.

All he did was come in and run the ball 235 times for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns.

If the Ravens are going to compete again, Forsett is going to have to carry that momentum forward. This is a team which lost Torry Smith to free agency, leaving an aging Steve Smith, an unproven Marlon Brown and rookie drop machine Breshad Perriman to fill the void. It will also be depending on rookie tight end Maxx Williams to move the chains.

None of that is terrifying, really. Smith clearly has gas left in the tank, Brown is serviceable and Perriman can work on his hands while bringing some insane speed to the outside. And I believe Williams will prove himself as a great tight end in short order.

While the new offense gels and the rookies get their feet wet though, the offense is going to have to depend on some big production from Forsett. Can he do it?

If he can prove last season wasn’t an aberration, the Ravens could find themselves hoisting a Super Bowl trophy come February.

(AP Photo/Don Wright)

Dallas Cowboys

How will the Dallas Cowboys win a Super Bowl? Well, the snarky answer is ‘Dez Bryant holds onto the football’ but it’s a little more complex.

This is a team whose offense ran through the backfield, but DeMarco Murray is gone and his replacements are…not exciting.

So if the Dallas Cowboys are going to make another run, they have to find a solution at running back.

Will it be Darren McFadden? Like Murray (prior to 2014), McFadden has been hurt more than healthy during his career. When he’s on the field, he’s a tremendous running back, quick, tough and hard to bring down. The problem is, he’s always dinged up and not available.

Or maybe Lance Dunbar? The Cowboys signed him to a one-year contract, telling you they don’t exactly see him as a long term answer at the position. He’s a lesser version of a Darren Sproles, fast and shifty but not someone you expect to carry a full load.

Joseph Randle would be a better direct fit if McFadden went down, but he could be facing discipline from the NFL after an incident involving marijuana and a gun. Right now it looks like he escaped anything more than a misdemeanor, but the NFL might still hit him with a suspension or fine.

More than likely, some combination of these three backs and Ryan Williams will carry the ball for Dallas. The question then becomes, can a combination of these backs replicate what Murray did last season?

If they can, the Cowboys should be poised for another run into the playoffs, perhaps advancing to the Super Bowl.

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Denver Broncos

The Championship window for the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning is closing. We know Manning doesn’t have a lot left in the tank, but he’s still the biggest reason the Broncos will win – or lose – a Super Bowl this year.

Manning clearly struggled down the stretch, topping 300 yards just once in the last six games of the season and turning over the ball six times while throwing nine touchdowns. In one game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16, he threw four interceptions.

Of course, the defense needs to stay playing at a high level and the receivers need to continue performing well, but a Super Bowl victory comes down to Manning.

Which is good for the Denver Broncos, because Manning has everything on the line. He wants this last Super Bowl badly, and that’s why he came back. While Manning has struggled in post-season games during his career, he is able to put his team in position to win most of the time.

Manning may not quite have the ‘rocket-laser arm’ he once did, his touch is as good as ever. Manning’s speedy release also is a big advantage for his team as it limits the amount of time his offensive line has to fight off the pass rush.

He’s got just a little bit of time left, so Manning is definitely bent on getting his second ring and for the Broncos, he’s the key to put them over the top.

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Indianapolis Colts

Since Andrew Luck was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, it seems as if they have been content to let him drag them as far as he could during the season and in the playoffs. Far too often, Luck has had to bail them out of a deep hole the defense managed to dig them into.

That was true in two of their last three playoff games – this year against the New England Patriots and the previous season against the Kansas City Chiefs. Against the Chiefs, Luck was able to bring the team back from a significant deficit, but against New England he couldn’t pull it off.

That’s not a knock on Luck – it’s a knock on the defense.

So if the Colts are going to win a Super Bowl, that defense has to step up and make it so Luck isn’t having to put on a cape and fly to the rescue.

The team added some potentially critical pieces to the defense to help with that. Trent Cole and Kendall Langford will help with the pass rush and run defense respectively, while defensive end rookie Henry Anderson and rookie corner D’Joun Smith will provide depth initially and hopefully have a significant impact if there are injuries.

Ultimately, the Colts have to find a way to play better defense. Their division is improving and the conference has some very strong teams. The Colts have managed to make the playoffs every year since they drafted Luck, but he shouldn’t have to keep doing it himself.

If this defense can help him out, they can finally get past the Conference Championship and get their hands on a Super Bowl win.

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Green Bay Packers

If they had held their focus just a few minutes longer against the Seattle Seahawks, the Green Bay Packers would have faced the New England Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl. Would it have changed the outcome? We’ll never know, but it would have been a fascinating game.

At the end of the day though, there’s one thing that gives the Packers the edge in winning another Super Bowl: quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers is one of the few elite quarterbacks in the NFL today, and the team around him has very few flaws. Defensively, it’s a team which was solid last year, had a decent secondary (which they have improved) and a nice pass rush.

Offensively, the Packers have multiple weapons for Rodgers to throw to, an excellent running back and an offensive line that is one of the better ones in the NFL, even when they are banged up.

So the difference between the Packers and other similarly stacked teams is Rodgers and if they win a Super Bowl, it will be because he plays at his best. Rodgers gives this team a weapon that isn’t easily contained or slowed much less stopped.

There are only a few quarterbacks who, like Rodgers, tilt the field in their team’s favor. They aren’t fool-proof (ask Andrew Luck) but at the end of the day their presence makes a major difference in the outcome of a game and the possibility of a Super Bowl.

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks could be going for their third Super Bowl in a row had they handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the end of the last championship game. As it stands, that’s not how it worked out, and they lost.

It’s no mean thing to make it to back-to-back Super Bowls, especially after you’ve already won one. Seattle managed it through a fantastic plan which included both taking advantage of the low contract total of quarterback Russell Wilson’s rookie deal to sign guys like Richard Sherman to big money deals, while also using a smart rotation on the defensive line to keep the players they had there fresh, as well as make up for a lack of big-time playmakers.

This is the last year of Wilson’s rookie deal, and while the team is trying to get an extension done with Wilson, it’s going to cost them and make it hard to keep the players they’ve had.

So this is a critical year for the Seahawks and it all comes down to how they manage the front seven and how effective it is.

The Seahawks face some of the best passing offenses in the NFL over in their conference and if they are to slow those offenses down, they need to generate pressure. When you are dealing with solid but unspectacular players, that means shifting fronts, constant substitutions and giving the quarterback many, many different looks.

You want to make sure an Aaron Rodgers, an Eli Manning or a Tony Romo never knows where the pressure is coming from or when it’s coming. The Seahawks have been outstanding in the past few years at bringing pressure and confusing quarterbacks.

This is the last year they can ride Wilson on the cheap and next season and beyond, they will have to continue to find different ways to make the most out of a small amount of cap room.

This season, if they want to make it three straight Super Bowl appearances (with wins in two out of the three games) the defense will have to continue to befuddle the opposition each Sunday.

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

New England Patriots

I would insert a ‘deflated balls’ joke here but I think we’re all tired of that by now. The New England Patriots are a team which lives and dies ultimately by Tom Brady’s arm. Yes, the defense is important and sure, the offensive weapons have to step up as well.

But we’ve seen a lot of people come and go and aside from Rob Gronkowski, nobody has been the constant on this team like Brady. Like him or now, respect him or not, you have to admit he’s a monster of a quarterback.

After basically being written off early last season, Brady brushed off the criticism and went on a tear the second half of the season. He rode that momentum into the playoffs and all the way to a Super Bowl win. Even during that game against the Seattle Seahawks, Brady was the center of the storm, leading his team back for scores after the Seahawks scored and keeping them in the game.

It wasn’t even his best game either as he looked shaky early on and turned the ball over twice (including one ugly pick). However, when the Seahawks were up 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter, it was Brady who led them on two big four minute drives to take the lead.

It was Brady who held the ball until he found Danny Amendola shoot free or Julian Edelman break cover, hitting them both for short touchdowns.

Without a doubt, Brady has lost a step, but it makes him no less dangerous nor any less vital to this team’s success.

The Patriots have a long road to go for a repeat Super Bowl and everyone is gunning for them. At the end of the day their success or failure will rest on the arm of one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Which isn’t the worst place to be for a franchise.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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And really, this time of year every team does have a chance. Nobody has played a down, so we have no real idea of how good (or bad) any of these teams are. Who's to say the Jacksonville Jaguars have no shot? Why can't the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turn things around?

At the end of the day, there's always a chance.

So today we've take a look at all 32 teams and given one reason that they could win the Super Bowl, one piece of the team, one player, one tactic that could carry them to victory if all goes well. And if it doesn't happen the way it's supposed to, the one thing which could kill a season as well.

We've got the teams in NFL Draft order still, placing the teams which traded their picks away into their original spots. We took a look at all of them to see which piece is the most important.

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